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In Which Bread is a Metaphor

Let’s talk about bread, shall we?

Yes. Let’s shall.

There are days when everything feels like you’ve just gotten home from eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet only to find out that the health department is about to shut the place down. Or when your favorite New Zealand based procedural crime show comes to the end of the last season available and you don’t know when the next one will be released.
You know what I mean.

What is a body to do when a pandemic-fueled rage burns inside and all you want to do is scream at people to get the goddamn vaccine and stop being so selfish and remember that we all have a duty of care to each other?

Make bread. That’s what you do.

And I’ll stop right here and say that I realize there are people who have a lot more on their plate than I do; and what I might consider to be challenging times is nothing at all compared to them. But am writing about my experience. Oh and yes, I also know there are people for whom eating bread, especially wheat bread, is not a comfort. But stay with me. This is a story about metaphors, after all.

The process of making bread, for me, is one of specificity and emotion, two things that don’t often go together. Like most baking, it requires measuring ingredients carefully, following the recipe carefully, and a whole lot of practice. But it can also be some of the more physically involved activities in the kitchen. From the smell and sight of yeast being activated to the glorious activity of kneading the dough, you get to engage all of yourself in the process. Some breads need a lot of handling to get the desired structure, while others do much of their own work during the resting.

Resting. There is the magic part for me. And something we all often forget to do as life and expectations around us regularly shove our brains into being constantly active. Once you have kneaded the dough, it often has at least one period of time when it rests and rises. And we all need to do that, especially these days. Allow yourself time to just rest. Just be. Stop DOING and just take some time to let all that is going on to happen around you. Listen to the rain on the window. Watch your silly orange hooligan of a cat sleeping. While your bread dough takes a moment to gather itself and rise remarkably, give yourself that same time.

And then you get to punch the dough. Literally, those are usually how the instructions read. So you’ve engaged your senses and your brain to get to the first prove. Then you switch off and rest. And then you get to be purely physical and pour your anxiety, anger, or whatever else into punching the dough, and moving ahead to the next step.

The last point I will make here is the result. The smell of baking bread is one that just about transcends every situation, culture, and environment. It is the smell of comfort; of love. And then, resisting the temptation to eat it immediately (because cutting a hot loaf of bread will make a mess), once it has cooled to just warm, it feeds us and makes us breathe deeply. And this little moment of love in the form of a warm slice of bread can help balance all the chaos around us.

The picture above is Buttermilk Bread that I made last week. I’ve included the recipe and included the copyright to the publisher. Because I certainly didn’t come up with it on my own, and it is, in my opinion, an exceptional bread in ease to make and deliciousness to eat.

Be well, gentle reader, and take care of yourself and one another.

Buttermilk Bread

  • 5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast; blend well. In small saucepan, heat buttermilk, water, and 1/2 cup butter until very warm (120 to to 130 degrees F). (Mixture will look curdled.) Add warm liquid to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in an additional 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour until dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

On floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 cup flour until dough is smooth and elastic; about 10 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until light and doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Grease two 8×4 or 9×5-inch loaf pans. Punch down dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide dough into 4 parts; shape into balls. Shape into 4 rolls by rolling out each ball into a 10×7 inch rectangle. Starting with the shorter side, roll up; pinch edges firmly to seal. Place 2 rolls side by side, seam side down, in each greased pan. Cover; let rise in warm place until dough fills pans and tops of loaves are about 1 inch above pan edges, 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover dough. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans; brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cool on wire racks.

“The Complete Book of Baking”

Copyright © The Pillsbury Company, 1993

All Rights Reserved

Dying in Place

She sits quietly by the window and thinks. She thinks about the sunlight that touches her face. She thinks about the sky. And she thinks about flying.

There was a time when the skies were all she knew. The swoop and the dive; swerving around the mountain tops and diving to lightly brush the surface of a lake with her fingertips. But that all changed when everything was lost.

It is sometimes hard for her to remember clearly what it was like to share the skies with her sisters. When the cries of dying warriors were a song to her and her family as they helped those deserving find their way to the afterlife. But all that ended when the All-Father ordered their winged steeds to be sent to pasture and she, and her sisters, to be grounded.

Growing old is hard. But being told you are obsolete is devastating. Turning in her chair to face the others in the sitting room, she inhales deeply, taking in the smells of the retirement community, and smiles, secretly to herself. Someday, Brynhild thinks, the Valkyrie will take to the skies once more.

Stories But Now With Less Bus

There was a time when I rode the bus every weekday and lots of stories to share.

And it was good.

Then there was a time when I took the water taxi for a time and there were some stories to share.

And it was different.

And then there was a time when I took the train every weekday and there were fewer stories due to the world collapsing around me and my soul being in pain.

And it was not nice.

And now I am working from home. Which I love and feel safe and get to spend more time with my amazing husband and still do my work with an awesome company and great teammates. But there is no commute. No bus, no boat, no train. And I have decided to exit social media, which was a primary platform to share what stories I did write. So this site will transition to being about my story in all sorts of ways.

We are still in transit. All of us. And I hope, gentle reader, that you will enjoy this new approach.

Even with less bus.

And it will be good. And things will get better.

And, as my mother used to say, “…and then we’ll all go to the seashore.”

Effect and Resonance

I am struggling to write stories. At first I thought it was the horror show of the world, brought to light by the fascist regime and collective behavior of those who support it during the past 4 years (and sadly, right up to this moment). I also thought it was due to a change in my commute, which for half of that time was just a much shorter bus ride, and then, with our move to Tacoma, a shift to taking the train. And now, with a zero commute for the past 8 months, there is no “life in transit” as it existed before, and I could point to that as an impediment to my writing. 

As I sat myself down on this chilly November Sunday, with a nice cup of peppermint tea, a napping husband (and two sleeping orange pussycats), I pulled up a random image from the internet and set about to writing; a forcing exercise to write for an hour based on the image, to re-engage my writing muscles and get back into this creative outlet which, along with cooking, is where I channel what used to be funneled into acting. 

What I discovered after attempt after attempt was that everything I wrote was about grief, loss, death, the impermanence of life, and a lot…I mean a LOT…of anger. And like a room full of tuning forks (or particularly nice crystal stemware), the vibrations resonating from all of these emotions rebounded and amplified, getting stronger and louder. For me, not conducive to the kind of writing that makes me happy.

So what now? I am hoping that, by naming the thing, I can start to unravel it. I have some work to do, and by sharing this quite publicly, I am hoping for two things: that anyone else dealing with this miasma of dark emotions knows they are not alone, and that I can hold myself more accountable to do the hard work to emerge from my current state of mind into a place where I can bring some positivity into the world to fight against the vast darkness that threatens to overtake us.

What I Don’t Know and What I Do Know

Black Lives Matter.


If that statement makes you uncomfortable and you don’t, with your whole heart and soul agree with it, then look deeply into your own reflection and know that you have some major work to do on how you feel about your fellow human beings. And if my saying that has you angry at me, then I have no other words for you than I bid you good-bye from my life. I will no longer lend my heart, time, or friendship to anyone who does not support the words and the change that is so deeply needed in our society.

I am neither a doctor nor scientist, so I will not offer advice on how to treat a wound or how to best prevent sickness during a pandemic. I am not a sociologist nor am I a learned historian, so I will not opine about how our collective society was built or why, or how history has led us to this moment. What I am is an experienced and deeply empathetic recruiter, so I will talk about what I might do to make a difference. I hope that it might cause you to think about your personal gifts, training, and experience, and how you can make some sort of impact and change.

When I teach people about interviewing, we always spend some time talking about bias. It is vitally important to understand our own biases during recruiting and hiring in order to effectively interrupt them, and not contribute to the systematic inequities, discrimination, and racism that may result. The National Equity Project wrote about this much more eloquently than I ever could, and you can find a good treatise on it here.

Part of my job, and something that I believe should be the job of every recruiter, is to ensure that decisions made during the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes are as free as possible from bias, and the assumptions that come with them. So first, I teach. Then, I challenge and shine a light on behavior that may be biased. And continually check my own thinking and reactions, each and every day.

Like many, I question how I, just one gay, white, Jewish man, can make any sort of difference at all, given how deep and insidious racism against black people is in this country. And the answer arose from my troubled heart this morning that I need to do what I know how to do, and keep saying so, and not let this moment pass into silence. I watched too many of my friends die of AIDS. The phrase “Silence = Death” was a rallying cry for many of us during the darkest times of that particular epidemic of hate, death, and intolerance. And the same is true now.

Black Lives Matter.